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Ramadan Announcement 1442 AH / 2021

Ramadan announcement 1436 AH

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Announcement by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):

First day of Ramadan will be Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” Qur’an 2:183

The Fiqh Council of North America recognizes astronomical calculation as an acceptable Shar’i method for determining the beginning of Lunar months including the months of Ramadan and Shawwal. FCNA uses the criteria of European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), which are that somewhere on the earth, at the sunset, the elongation should be at least 8 degrees and moon should be at least 5 degrees above horizon. If these conditions are met, the new crescent will be visible somewhere on earth. Hence the new lunar month will start the next day, otherwise it will start on the day following next.

On the basis of this method the dates of Ramadan and Eidul Fitr for the year 1442 AH are established as follows:

Ramadan 1442 AH:

The Astronomical New Moon is on Monday, April 12, 2021 at 2:33 Universal Time. On that day, everywhere in North and South America at sunset the elongation is at least 8 degrees and moon is at least 5 degrees above the sun. Therefore, first day of Ramadan 1442 is on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, insha’Allah. Tarawih prayer will start on Monday night April 12.

Eidul-Fitr 1442 AH:

The Astronomical New Moon is on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 19:02 Universal Time. On that day there is no place on earth where at sunset the elongation is 8 degrees and moon is 5 degrees above the sun. Therefore Shawwal 1442 cannot start the next day. Hence first day of Shawwal is on Thursday, May 13, 2021, insha’Allah. Eid-ul-Fitr will be on Thursday May 13, 2021.

May Allah (SWT) keep us on the right path, and accept our fasting and prayers. Ameen.

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Teenage Girls Search for Love and Marriage in Saudi Arabia

Love on Girls’ Side of the Saudi Divide

Reprinted from the New York Times
By Katherine Zoepf
May 13, 2008
Love in Saudi Arabia

Shaden, who is veiled at 17, spoke with her father as her younger sister looked on in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in March 2008.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The dance party in Atheer Jassem al-Othman’s living room was in full swing. The guests — about two dozen girls in their late teens — had arrived, and Ms. Othman and her mother were passing around cups of sweet tea and dishes of dates.

About half the girls were swaying and gyrating, without the slightest self-consciousness, among overstuffed sofas, heavy draperies, tables larded with figurines and ornately-covered tissue boxes. Their head-to-toe abayas, balled up and tossed onto chairs, looked like black cloth puddles.

Suddenly, the music stopped, and an 18-year-old named Alia tottered forward.

“Girls? I have something to tell you,” Alia faltered, appearing to sway slightly on her high heels. She paused anxiously, and the next words came out in a rush. “I’ve gotten engaged!” There was a chorus of shrieks at the surprise announcement and Alia burst into tears, as did several of the other girls.

Ms. Othman’s mother smiled knowingly and left the room, leaving the girls to their moment of emotion. The group has been friends since they were of middle-school age, and Alia would be the first of them to marry.

A cellphone picture of Alia’s fiancé —- a 25-year-old military man named Badr —- was passed around, and the girls began pestering Alia for the details of her showfa. A showfa — literally, a “viewing” — usually occurs on the day that a Saudi girl is engaged.

A girl’s suitor, when he comes to ask her father for her hand in marriage, has the right to see her dressed without her abaya.

In some families, he may have a supervised conversation with her. Ideally, many Saudis say, her showfa will be the only time in a girl’s life that she is seen this way by a man outside her family.

The separation between the sexes in Saudi Arabia is so extreme that it is difficult to overstate. Saudi women may not drive, and they must wear black abayas and head coverings in public at all times. They are spirited around the city in cars with tinted windows, attend girls-only schools and university departments, and eat in special “family” sections of cafes and restaurants, which are carefully partitioned from the sections used by single male diners.

Special women-only gyms, women-only boutiques and travel agencies, even a women-only shopping mall, have been established in Riyadh in recent years to serve women who did not previously have access to such places unless they were chaperoned by a male relative.

Playful as they are, girls like Ms. Othman and her friends are well aware of the limits that their conservative society places on their behavior. And, for the most part, they say that they do not seriously question those limits.

Most of the girls say their faith, in the strict interpretation of Islam espoused by the Wahhabi religious establishment here, runs very deep. They argue a bit among themselves about the details — whether it is acceptable to have men on your Facebook friend list, or whether a male first cousin should ever be able to see you without your face covered. And they peppered this reporter with questions about what the young Saudi men she had met were thinking about and talking about.

But they seem to regard the idea of having a conversation with a man before their showfas and subsequent engagements with very real horror. When they do talk about girls who chat with men online or who somehow find their own fiancés, these stories have something of the quality of urban legends about them: fuzzy in their particulars, told about friends of friends, or “someone in my sister’s class.”

Well-brought-up unmarried young women here are so isolated from boys and men that when they talk about them, it sometimes sounds as if they are discussing a different species.

Saudi teenage girl

Sara al-Tukhaifi, 18, in her brother’s car in Riyadh. More young men in cars are chasing other cars they believe to contain young women, to try to give the women their phone numbers via Bluetooth.

Questions for the Fiancé

Later that evening, over fava bean stew, salad, and meat-filled pastries, Alia revealed that she was to be allowed to speak to her fiancé on the phone. Their first phone conversation was scheduled for the following day, she said, and she was so worried about what to say to Badr that she was compiling a list of questions.

“Ask him whether he likes his work,” one of her friends suggested. “Men are supposed to love talking about their work.”

“Ask him what kind of cellphone he has, and what kind of car,” suggested another. “That way you’ll be able to find out how he spends his money, whether he’s free with it or whether he’s stingy.”

Alia nodded earnestly, dark ringlets bouncing, and took notes. She had been so racked with nerves during her showfa that she had almost dropped the tray of juice her father had asked her to bring in to her fiancé, and she could hardly remember a thing he had said. She was to learn a bit more about him during this next conversation.

According to about 30 Saudi girls and women between ages 15 and 25, all interviewed during December, January and February, it is becoming more and more socially acceptable for young engaged women to speak to their fiancés on the phone, though more conservative families still forbid all contact between engaged couples.

It is considered embarrassing to admit to much strong feeling for a fiancé before the wedding and, before their engagements, any kind of contact with a man is out of the question. Even so, young women here sometimes resort to clandestine activities to chat with or to meet men, or simply to catch a rare glimpse into the men’s world.

Though it is as near to hand as the offices they pass each morning on the way to college, or the majlis, a traditional home reception room, where their fathers and brothers entertain friends, the men’s world is so remote from them that some Saudi girls resort to disguise in order to venture into it.

At Prince Sultan University, where Atheer Jassem al-Othman, 18, is a first-year law student, a pair of second-year students recently spent a mid-morning break between classes showing off photographs of themselves dressed as boys.

In the pictures, the girls wore thobes, the ankle-length white garments traditionally worn by Saudi men, and had covered their hair with the male headdresses called shmaghs. One of the girls had used an eyeliner pencil to give herself a grayish, stubble-like mist along her jaw line. Displayed on the screens of the two girls’ cellphones, the photographs evoked little exclamations of congratulation as they were passed around.

“A lot of girls do it,” said an 18-year-old named Sara al-Tukhaifi who explained that a girl and her friends might cross-dress, sneaking thobes out of a brother’s closet, then challenge each other to enter the Saudi male sphere in various ways, by walking nonchalantly up to the men-only counter in a McDonalds, say, or even by driving.

“It’s just a game,” Ms. Tukhaifi said, although detention by the religious police is always a possibility. “I haven’t done it myself, but those two are really good at it. They went into a store and pretended to be looking at another girl — they even got her to turn her face away.”

Grinning, Ms. Tukhaifi mimicked the gesture, pressing her face into the corner of her hijab with exaggerated pretend modesty while her classmate Shaden giggled. Saudi newspapers often lament the rise of rebellious behavior among young Saudis. There are reports of a recent spate of ugly confrontations between youths and the religious police, and of a supposed increase in same-sex love affairs among young people frustrated at the strict division between the genders.

And certainly, practices like “numbering” — where a group of young men in a car chase another car they believe to contain young women, and try to give the women their phone number via Bluetooth, or by holding a written number up to the window — have become a very visible part of Saudi urban life.

Flirting by Phone

A woman can’t switch her phone’s Bluetooth feature on in a public place without receiving a barrage of the love poems and photos of flowers and small children which many Saudi men keep stored on their phones for purposes of flirtation. And last year, Al Arabiya television reported that some young Saudis have started buying special “electronic belts,” which use Bluetooth technology to discreetly beam the wearer’s cellphone number and e-mail address at passing members of the opposite sex.

Saudi teenage girl at home

Shaden, 17, at her home in Riyadh. She spoke admiringly of the religious police, whom she sees as the guardians of perfectly normal Saudi social values, and she boasted about an older brother who has become more strict in his faith.

Ms. Tukhaifi and Shaden know of girls in their college who have passionate friendships, possibly even love affairs, with other girls but they say that this, like the cross-dressing, is just a “game” born of frustration, something that will inevitably end when the girls in question become engaged. And they and their friends say that they find the experience of being chased by boys in cars to be frightening, and insist that they do not know any girl who has actually spoken to a boy who contacted her via Bluetooth.

“If your family found out you were talking to a man online, that’s not quite as bad as talking to him on the phone,” Ms. Tukhaifi explained. “With the phone, everyone can agree that is forbidden, because Islam forbids a stranger to hear your voice. Online he only sees your writing, so that’s slightly more open to interpretation.

“One test is that if you’re ashamed to tell your family something, then you know for sure it’s wrong,” Ms. Tukhaifi continued. “For a while I had Facebook friends who were boys — I didn’t e-mail with them or anything, but they asked me to ‘friend’ them and so I did. But then I thought about my family and I took them off the list.”

Ms. Tukhaifi and Shaden both spoke admiringly of the religious police, whom they see as the guardians of perfectly normal Saudi social values, and Shaden boasted lightly about an older brother who has become multazim, very strict in his faith, and who has been seeing to it that all her family members become more punctilious in their religious observance. “Praise be to God, he became multazim when he was in ninth grade,” Shaden recalled, fondly. “I remember how he started to grow his beard — it was so wispy when it started — and to wear a shorter thobe.” Saudi men often grow their beards long and wear their thobes cut above the ankles as signals of their religious devotion.

“I always go to him when I have problems,” said Shaden who, like many of the young Saudi women interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition that her last name be omitted. “And he’s not too strict — he still listens to music sometimes. I asked him once, ‘You do everything right and yet you’re listening to music?’ He said, ‘I know music is haram, and inshallah, with time I will be able to stop listening to music too.’ ” Haram means forbidden, and inshallah means “God willing.”

She added, “I told him, ‘I want a husband like you.’ ”

Separated From Cousins

Shaden lives in a large walled compound in a prosperous Riyadh suburb; her father’s brothers live with their families in separate houses within the compound, and the families share a common garden and pool. Shaden and several of her male cousins grew up playing together constantly, tearing around the pool together during the summer, and enjoying shared vacations.

Now that, at 17, she is considered an adult Saudi woman and must confine herself to the female sphere, she sometimes misses their company.

“Until I was in 9th or 10th grade, we used to put a carpet on the lawn and we would take hot milk and sit there with my boy cousins,” Shaden recalled, at home one February evening, in front of the television. She was serving a few female guests a party dip of her own invention, a concoction of yogurt, mayonnaise and thyme.

“But my mom and their mom got uncomfortable with it, and so we stopped,” she said. “Now we sometimes talk on MSN, or on the phone, but they shouldn’t ever see my face.”

“My sister and I sometimes ask my mom, ‘Why didn’t you breast-feed our boy cousins, too?’ ” Shaden continued.

She was referring to a practice called milk kinship that predates Islam and is still common in the Persian Gulf countries. A woman does not have to veil herself in front of a man she nursed as an infant, and neither do her biological children. The woman’s biological children and the children she has nursed are considered “milk siblings” and are prohibited from marrying.

“If my mom had breast-fed my cousins, we could sit with them, and it would all be much easier,” Shaden said. She turned back to the stack of DVDs she had been rifling through, and held up a copy of Pride and Prejudice, the version with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, a film she says she has seen dozens of times.

“It’s a bit like our society, I think,” Shaden said of late Georgian England. “It’s dignified, and a bit strict. Doesn’t it remind you a little bit of Saudi Arabia? It’s my favorite DVD.”

Shaden sighed, deeply. “When Darcy comes to Elizabeth and says ‘I love you’ — that’s exactly the kind of love I want.”

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Ramadan: the Greatest Opportunity

Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan Mubarak

Wael Abdelgawad | Zawaj.com

Zawaj.com wishes all of you a Ramadan Mubarak. The greatest month is almost upon us, a month whose beginning is mercy, whose middle is forgiveness, and whose end is a protection from the fire.

Abu Hurairah (raa) relates the Messenger of Allah (saws) said when one Ramadan came: “A blessed month has arrived. Observing it in fasting is mandated on you. During this month, the gates of Paradise will be opened and the gates of Hellfire will be closed. The evil ones (Shayaatin) will be handcuffed. In it there is one night during which worship is better than worship in a thousand months. Whoever is denied its blessings has been denied the biggest blessing.” (Related by Ahmed, Nasaae and Bayhaqi)

All praise is due to Allah for guiding us to Islam, and for allowing us to witness another Ramadan. Let us use this month as an opportunity to perfect our prayers, beg forgiveness for our sins, and purify our souls from our mistakes and flaws.

Let us also thank Allah for all of His favors upon us, which are too many to count. There is so much we take for granted, so much we forget to thank Allah for. If we have security from violence, a roof over our head, and food on our table, then we already have more than many people in the world. Let us take stock of our lives and try to number our blessings: we will see they are limitless.

Palestinians during Ramadan

Palestinian women walk past men (on the other side of the fence) waiting to cross a checkpoint to get into Israel in order to pray for the holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, Sept. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill) #

This is a month when prayers are answered, so all of you out there reading this, always remember to call upon Allah on behalf of our Muslim brothers and sisters who are struggling all over the world:

  • Call upon Allah to help the Muslims of China, who are being terribly persecuted by the Communist government.
  • Call upon Allah on behalf of your brothers and sisters in Syria and Palestine, who are struggling in the cause of Allah for freedom and dignity.
  • Ask Allah to relieve the suffering of the Rohingya people; they are being targeted for genocide by the government of Myanmar (Burma).
  • Remember in your du’aa the Muslims of Yemen, Somalia, the Congo, and every place where the Muslims are struggling for their deen, their freedom, and their lives.

Ramadan is an opportunity for us to help our brothers and sisters through the power of dua’.

Finally, when you are fasting and you feel the pangs in your stomach, and later when you break your fast, remember:

  • If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep … you are richer than 75% of this world.
  • If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace … you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness … you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
  • If you can attend an Islamic meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death … you are more blessed than many of the people in the world.

May Allah accept this Ramadan from us, and may He make this Ramadan a time of purification, growth and strength for all of us.

– Wael Abdelgawad, Zawaj.com Founder

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If you think I’m beautiful…

Muslim woman wearing red bootsMuslim woman in white on horsebackThe famous Islamic scholar Rabia al Adawiyya was walking one day, when she saw a man staring at her. She asked him, “What is it?!”

He replied, “I have never seen anyone more beautiful than you, are you married?”

“If you think I’m beautiful,” Rabia said, “you should see my sister, who’s walking behind me.”

The man looked behind her but saw nobody. “Where? I don’t see anyone.”

Rabia replied, “If you were worth marrying, you wouldn’t have looked behind me, you would have said, ‘there can be nobody more beautiful than you.’ Now get away from me!”

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Top 10 Ways to Meet a Muslim for Marriage, Part 2 – Talk to Your Friends

Muslim woman blows hearts at husband

One of the best ways to meet a Muslim for marriage is through your network of friends.

By Wael Abdelgawad | Zawaj.com

Part 1 – Family Friends

It’s not easy to find and meet a good Muslim man or woman for marriage. This is part two in a series that gives concrete advice on how to find the perfect Muslim spouse.

Part one of this series referred to friends of your family. In this part, I’m talking about communicating with your own friends and asking them if they know of someone who might be a good match for you.

It can be embarrassing to say to your friends, “I’m trying to get married. Do you someone who’s looking?” But in my opinion, being open with your friends about your search is one of the most effective means to find a Muslim marriage partner.

Why does this work so well? Three reasons:

Friends Carry Authority

We tend to give weight to the opinions of our friends. We also tend to think of them as unbiased sources of information. If they do have a bias, it’s usually in our favor. So if a friend says to me, “I know someone who is perfect for you. I’ve known her for a long time and she’s a good Muslim sister.” Then I will probably listen to that friend and trust his opinion. I will be much more likely to consider the woman. Without the recommendation, she’s another face in the sea. With it, she’s a serious candidate.

Just make sure that the friends you talk to are people with good character and morals. If you have a friend who lives a haram lifestyle and goes from one disastrous relationship to another, that’s not the one to ask. But if you know any Muslim couples who are pious and happily married, they’re the perfect ones to solicit help from.

People Care About Friends’ Perceptions

Cute Muslim couple

One of the factors by which we measure a potential spouse – whether we admit it or not – is whether or not our friends will be impressed. It may be shallow, but we all do this on some level. When a woman thinks of being with a man or marrying him, she asks herself, “What will my friends say? Will they like him? Will they approve?” We tend to think of a spouse as an extension of ourselves and our reputations. So a attractive, appealing spouse boosts our own sense of self-worth.

Since our friends’ opinions matter, it’s wise to choose someone from the beginning who our friends approve of. Asking friends for recommendations and connections is one way to do this.

Friends Can Act as Go-Betweens

Another good reason to involve your friends in seeking a spouse is that the friends can act as intermediaries between you and the other candidate. If you know a Muslim couple this works particularly well.

Let’s say you are a man seeking a wife. You tell your friend Ali about it. He talks to his wife Maryam. She says, “Yes, I know someone who would be perfect! Her name is Ghada.” So she talks to Ghada, and perhaps Ali and Maryam host the two of you for dinner. You’re able to meet Ghada in an environment where the two of you are comfortable.

Next: Part 3 – Talk to the Local Imam – But Exercise Caution!

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I’ll Marry Your Sister and You Marry Mine – Swap Marriages in Yemen

Yemeni man and wife with baby

Yemeni man and wife with baby

In the Arab world, when a man gets married he makes a payment to his bride’s family. However in parts of Yemen when a brother and sister from one family marry a brother and sister from another, dowries are often not paid – but this can have tragic consequences.

 

By Mai Noman
BBC Arabic Service

A young man approaches a friend to ask for his sister’s hand in marriage – in exchange for his own sister’s hand. This is “swap” marriage or “shegar” as it is known in Arabic, an ancient marriage custom still practised in Yemen.

The way it works is: “I’ll marry your sister, if you marry mine.”

But the other side of the bargain is: “If you divorce my sister, I’ll divorce yours.”

Swap marriage came about as a way to help poorer families avoid paying dowries, and that is still a big attraction to some families in Yemen today. A dowry can come to about $3,500 – even though most people earn less than $2 a day.

Yemeni village elder in traditional Arab clothing

Yemeni village elder in traditional Arab clothing.

When there is no money to pay for the dowry and other wedding expenses, that’s when “people marry shegar” says Mohamed Hamoud, a village elder in Sawan, not far from the capital Sanaa.

But the survival of swap marriage also owes something to the fact that Yemen is a deeply proud and conservative country whose strict adherence to ancient traditions and values have kept the fabric of society unchanged.

“Our traditions are too important to us,” Hamoud says.

He acknowledges, though, that the practice is in decline, for one simple reason: “It causes too much misery.”

That’s because couples forced first to love can sometimes then be forced to divorce.

Nadia, a young woman in her late 20s, married a man whose sister married her brother. It was a happy marriage and she had three children – before her brother’s marriage broke down, and she and her husband were torn apart.

“Swap marriage is the worst kind of marriage, it’s better to spend all your life alone than to marry this way,” she cries.

Her children were taken away from her, including her youngest, who was then seven months old.

“I begged them to return my daughter to me, I told them, ‘It’s not right, she needs me to breastfeed her.’ I asked them, ‘What have I done wrong?'”

She had done nothing wrong. For her in-laws it was simply a tit-for-tat response. What happened to their daughter had to happen to her.

Yemeni child plays in Sawan, in front of traditional Yemeni homes

Yemeni child plays in Sawan, in front of traditional Yemeni homes.

Nadia considered resorting to the law to get her children back, as the law does side with mothers in these cases, but she decided against it. In practice, tribal and social customs tend to overrule the law of the state.

She did not see her daughter again for three years. “When I saw her for the first time after all those years I thought to myself, ‘She won’t recognise me.’ I imagined her saying: ‘You are not my mother how could you be my mother when I haven’t seen you since I was a few months old?'” she says.

Many religious scholars oppose swap marriage and have declared it un-Islamic on the grounds that the dowry is an essential part of the Muslim marriage contract.

“The dowry payment is meant to provide women with some financial security as they leave their home,” Yemeni sheikh Mohamed Mamoun explains.

But in some cases swap marriages occur even when families do pay a dowry. In fact, whenever two families exchange daughters, the couples’ fates will most likely be sealed together.

Brother and sister Waleed and Nora married their cousins in shegar, but both families paid dowry and agreed not to make the two marriages dependent on each other.

The swap in this instance was meant to ease the mounting pressure on parents to find suitors for their daughters. In a country where more than a quarter of females are married off before the age of 15, a girl’s family starts to worry if their daughter is not asked for by her mid-teens. It was also a case of following the examples set by previous generations, as Waleed and Nora’s parents had happily married their own cousins in shegar.

Neither sibling wanted this marriage and yet they did little to try and stop it.

“We’re not the type of children who could say ‘No’ to their father,” says Waleed.

They decided to surrender to what they saw as their destiny and give the marriages a chance. But it wasn’t long before Waleed’s relationship started to face problems.

After nine months, and against his family’s wishes, he decided to divorce his wife.

Yemeni woman walks in front of a wooden door

Yemeni woman walks in front of a wooden door

Waleed’s in-laws, overcome with grief and anger, then decided to return his sister to her parents in retribution, ignoring the original agreement that the marriages would not depend on one another. And also ignoring the fact that Nora had turned out to be happy with her husband.

“Of course I felt guilty about my sister, she had to live away from her husband,” Waleed says. But he insists he couldn’t bear his unhappy marriage any more.

The dilemma of whether to choose your own happiness over your sibling’s is just one of many complications couples face when entering this kind of marriage.

Fortunately, through the intervention of family and friends, Nora was reunited with her husband, but not all those who “swap marry” are as lucky.

Nadia is a case in point, and her pain and heartache will be familiar to many Yemeni men and women.

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15 Beautiful Ramadan Photos 2017 / 1438 AH

Man makes dua on a boulder in Kashmir, India.

Man makes dua on a boulder in Kashmir, India. Very beautiful subhanAllah.

It is the holy month of Ramadan, and Muslims all over the world are fasting, sacrificing, praying,
and striving for Allah’s pleasure. Here’s a selection of lovely photos of Muslims all over the world in Ramadan:

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The Power of Fasting – BBC News

Pakistani baker makes traditional Ramadan food

A baker makes traditional food for Ramadan at a shop in Karachi, Pakistan, on Aug. 1. Science, it seems, is discovering that Ramadan fasting has been good for our health all along!

Michael Mosley
Reprinted from BBC News online

Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits, as well as potentially helping the overweight, as Michael Mosley discovered.

(In other words, what Muslims have been doing all along in Ramadan. – Editor)

Intermittent fasting

Michael Mosley fasted for two days every week (P.S. – Fasting twice a week is Sunnah).

I’d always thought of fasting as something unpleasant, with no obvious long term benefits. So when I was asked to make a documentary that would involve me going without food, I was not keen as I was sure I would not enjoy it.
But the Horizon editor assured me there was great new science and that I might see some dramatic improvements to my body. So, of course, I said, “yes”.

I am not strong-willed enough to diet over the long term, but I am extremely interested in the reasons why eating less might lead to increased life span, particularly as scientists think it may be possible to get the benefits without the pain.

How you age is powerfully shaped by your genes. But there’s not much you can do about that.

Calorie restriction, eating well but not much, is one of the few things that has been shown to extend life expectancy, at least in animals. We’ve known since the 1930s that mice put on a low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet live far longer. There is mounting evidence that the same is true in monkeys.

Growth hormone

The world record for extending life expectancy in a mammal is held by a new type of mouse which can expect to live an extra 40%, equivalent to a human living to 120 or even longer.

It has been genetically engineered so its body produces very low levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1, high levels of which seem to lead to accelerated ageing and age-related diseases, while low levels are protective.

Growth hormone deficiency

Professor Longo has investigated growth hormone deficiency in humans.

A similar, but natural, genetic mutation has been found in humans with Laron syndrome, a rare condition that affects fewer than 350 people worldwide. The very low levels of IGF-1 their bodies produce means they are short, but this also seems to protect them against cancer and diabetes, two common age-related diseases.

The IGF-1 hormone (insulin-like growth factor) is one of the drivers which keep our bodies in go-go mode, with cells driven to reproduce. This is fine when you are growing, but not so good later in life.

There is now evidence suggesting that IGF-1 levels can be lowered by what you eat. Studies on calorie restrictors suggest that eating less helps, but it is not enough

As well as cutting calories you have to cut your protein intake. Not entirely – that would be a very bad idea. It’s about sticking to recommended guidelines, something most of us fail to do.

The reason seems to be that when our bodies no longer have access to food they switch from “growth mode” to “repair mode”.

As levels of the IGF-1 hormone drop, a number of repair genes appear to get switched on according to ongoing research by Professor Valter Longo of the University of Southern California.

Intermittent fasting

One area of current research into diet is Alternate Day fasting (ADF), involving eating what you want one day, then a very restricted diet (fewer than 600 calories) the next, and most surprisingly, it does not seem to matter that much what you eat on non-fast days.

Dr Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago carried out an eight-week trial comparing two groups of overweight patients on ADF.

“If you were sticking to your fast days, then in terms of cardiovascular disease risk, it didn’t seem to matter if you were eating a high-fat or low-fat diet on your feed (non-fast) days,” she said.

I decided I couldn’t manage ADF, it was just too impractical. Instead I did an easier version, the so-called 5:2 diet. As the name implies you eat normally 5 days a week, then two days a week you eat 500 calories if you are a woman, or 600 calories, if you are a man.

There are no firm rules because so far there have been few proper human trials. I found that I could get through my fast days best if I had a light breakfast (scrambled eggs, thin slice of ham, lots of black tea, adding up to about 300 calories), lots of water and herbal tea during the day, then a light dinner (grilled fish with lots of vegetables) at night.

On my feed days I ate what I normally do and felt no need to gorge.

I stuck to this diet for 5 weeks, during which time I lost nearly a stone and my blood markers, like IGF-1, glucose and cholesterol, improved. If I can sustain that, it will greatly reduce my risk of contracting age-related diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Current medical opinion is that the benefits of fasting are unproven and until there are more human studies it’s better to eat at least 2000 calories a day. If you really want to fast then you should do it in a proper clinic or under medical supervision, because there are many people, such as pregnant women or diabetics on medication, for whom it could be dangerous.

I was closely monitored throughout and found the 5:2 surprisingly easy. I will almost certainly continue doing it, albeit less often. Fasting, like eating, is best done in moderation.

Michael Mosley presents Horizon: Eat, Fast and Live Longer on BBC Two at 21:00 BST on Monday 6 August. Watch online afterwards via iPlayer (UK only) or browse Horizon clips at the above link.

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The New Muslim Trap: Why Muslim Converts Must Exercise Caution in Marriage

Women Muslim convertsWritten by Michelle Yeung, for the Allahcentric Blog.

For the vast majority of converts I know, their embracing of Islam happened between the ages of 18 – 26. There’s something about those several years after one finishes high school and one moves out of their parent’s home, that finally forces them, to think. There’s also something else that people of that age often have in common; they feel a strong need to settle with a life partner, which for a Muslim, means marriage.

I don’t have an opinion on whether converts should look to marry immediately, or wait, that probably depends on their own circumstances. However, I would advise any new convert to exercise particular caution as to how they go about meeting a potential spouse. As I listened to one convert sister tell me her story of her own desire to marry and the challenges that faced her,  this enabled me to realise some of the reasons for their particular vulnerability to becoming trapped in a difficult marriage situation.

New Converts can often be Very Vulnerable

Two young Muslim womenBecoming Muslim and practicing Islam is a big life change. Not just in the actions themselves, but in the person’s entire life. New converts often find themselves distanced from their previous group of friends, and even family. All of the new things that they are reading, and being told, can be over whelming and whilst the new convert realises they will never be truly alone, the first couple of years can at the same time be horribly lonely.

“I’d sometimes cry myself to sleep at night, because I felt very lonely. I felt closer to Allah at those times and it felt good, and yet I would have loved to have had another person there with me, seeing me through day by day. I had a small group of friends, but they all had their own husbands and children and I felt like I had nobody. I felt that my best option was marriage.”

Lack of Protective Forces, Such as Muslim Family and a Community

The sad truth is, some people do seem to take advantage of this situation. When both parties are Muslim, the families would meet and the woman’s guardian would approve the marriage. For converts, the process is often quite different, and they may be left making key life decisions such as marriage on their own.

“I was never really a part of any Muslim community. I had a few friends, but we weren’t so close that I would tell them everything. I just didn’t feel like a belonged anywhere, I felt distanced from my family, and I didn’t exactly fit with my local Muslim community. This made me want to focus just on me, on doing my own thing, my own way. I didn’t value the community in the way that I should have done, or I do now. I guess I was a rebel, always wanting to remain independent. So when it came to meeting somebody, I didn’t tell people, I didn’t want their advice, I just wanted to do things my way and he also convinced me that this was the best thing to do in my situation”.

Looking for a Fast Way to Reach God, Through a Spouse

Muslim sister reading Azizah magazine.

Muslim sister reading Azizah magazine.

Muslims believe that marriage in itself is a good, beneficial thing. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that marriage is half of the religion. New converts seem to have a tendency to want to carryout every single thing that is deemed good, straight away, and marriage is one of these actions.

“I didn’t know it then, but yes, I was looking for a fast way to reach Allah. I thought that if I could get married, to someone really good, then I’d quickly become just like them in that respect. I thought I’d be whisked off overseas by him and transformed into this great Muslim woman. I didn’t know that he had no intention to ever take me with him.”

Can be a Little Naive

It’s natural to see the good in all people, but it can sometimes be more challenging for new Muslims to distinguish true good character from mere actions. New Muslims often seem to be very easily impressed by other Muslims, just based on a few things the person says or does. For example, a brand new Muslim sister may find it very difficult to cover her hair immediately, and could then begin to hold the Muslim women who do, in exaggerated esteem.

“I wasn’t so naive as to think anyone who was Muslim could be trusted. But I suppose I must have thought that anyone who talked in an impressive way would also do the things they preached about. If a brother wore a thawb, talked about visiting his skaykh overseas, and was highly thought of as a community activist, who was I to think that they weren’t all that they made out to be? What did I know after all as a new convert?”.

My advice to any new convert considering marriage, would be to:

  1. Tell your friends and family that you are corresponding, and involve people whom you trust
  2. Meet their family and make sure that they are fully aware of you
  3. Be extra cautious if they seem to be wanting to cut corners (e.g. not involving parents, not agreeing to a mahr, being unclear about living arrangements or financial support once married – sisters)
  4. Ask select people about their din and their character
  5. Perform the salatul istikhara, and make lots of du’a for guidance.

Michelle Yeung is a British convert currently living in Toronto with her husband.  She runs the Sister has Style blog, and is the educational services manager for SeekersGuidance.

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Mother’s Day in Islam

Muslim mother and child

Mother and child reading Quran.

Answered by Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah
Reprinted from VirtualMosque.com

The Question

Can I Celebrate Mother’s Day in Islam?

The Answer

The short answer is that it is permissible and there is no harm in it.

To continue:

Man is the creation of Allah. Allah Most High has honored man for his humanity: He molded him with His own hands, breathed into them from His Spirit, ordered the angels prostrate to him, and expelled Satan from His mercy because the latter arrogantly refused to obey his Lord’s command to prostrate to man. Respecting humanity is one of the angelic characteristics that forms foundation of Muslim civilization. Dishonoring, humiliating, and disdaining humans are provocations of Satan that shake the very foundations of civilization.

Allah says “Whoever chooses Satan for a patron instead of Allah is verily a loser and his loss is manifest.” (Qur’an 4:119)

“Will ye choose him [Satan] and his seed for your protecting friends instead of Me [Allah] when they are an enemy unto you? Calamitous is the exchange for evil doers!” (Qur’an, 18:50)

Just as Islam honors individuals from the perspective of their humanity without looking at their sex, race, or color, it has also added another form of respect associated with the various type of roles Allah gave them appropriate to their God-given characteristics. This additional form of respect includes respecting one’s parents whom Allah has made a cause for one’s existence, joining thanking them with thanking Him.

Allah says: “And We enjoined upon man concerning his parents. His mother begot him in weakness upon weakness and his weaning is in two years. Give thanks unto Me and unto thy parents. Unto Me is the journeying.” (Qur’an, 31:14)

In the Qur’an, Allah coupled His worship with kindness and respect to one’s parents saying:

“Your Lord decreed that you worship none save Him and (that you show) kindness to parents.” (Qur’an, 17:23)

This is because Allah made them the apparent cause for existence. Thus, one’s parents are the greatest worldly manifestation of the characteristic of creation.

The Prophet designated mothers as the ones most worthy of excellent companionship. Indeed, in this he gave them precedence over fathers.

Abu Hurayrah relates that a man came to the Messenger of Allah and said, “Which person is the most worthy of my excellent companionship?”

He replied, “Your mother.”

The man asked, “Then who?”

The Prophet said, “Your mother.”

Then the man said, “Then who?”

The Prophet replied, “Your mother.”

Then the man said, “Then who?”

The Prophet said, “Your father.”

(Bukhari and Muslim)

Muslim mother and child

The Mother Child Relationship

Islamic Law affirms that the relationship between a child and its mother is a natural, organic relationship. So his relationship to her is not dependent upon whether she bore him within marriage or out of wedlock—indeed, she is his mother in all circumstances. This is contrary to paternity, which can only be established through legal means.

Respecting one’s Mother Implies and the Ruling?

Respecting one’s mother includes: taking care of her physical well-being, honoring her and treating her well. Nothing in the Shari’a prohibits an occasion in which children express honoring their mothers. This is merely a matter of organization. There is nothing wrong with it and it bears no connection to the issue of innovation about which so many people murmur. Rejected innovations are new things which are contrary to the Shari’a, since the Prophet said, “Whoever creates something new in this affair of ours which is foreign to it, it is rejected.” (Bukhari and Muslim). The divergent meaning is that whoever innovates something which is not foreign to it, it will be accepted and not rejected.

The Prophet approved when the Arabs celebrated national commemorations and tribal victories in which they would sing of their tribal feats and their victories days. Imam Bukhari and Muslim narrate in a hadith that ‘A’ishah said: “Abu Bakr came to see me. I had two young girls with me who were singing what was sung at the Battle of Bu’ath.” In addition, prophetic narrations note that the Prophet visited the grave of his mother Aminah and that he was never seen to cry more than on that day. (al-Hakim)

The Meaning of Motherhood

Muslim mother and sonIn the Arabic language, the word ‘mother’ refers to the source, to a habitat, to the chief, and to the servant of a people who takes care of their food and serves them. This last meaning was related from Imam al-Shafi’I, who was among the experts of Arabic language. Ibn Durayd said, “That to which all other things around it are ascribed to it is called a ‘mother’.” Because of this, Mecca is dubbed ‘Mother of cities’ since it is in the center of the world and the direction to which people face [in prayer], and because it is the most significant city of all.

Since language is the vessel for thought, for Muslims the immediate sense of word is associated with that person whom Allah made the source for an individual human’s formation, who then sheltered him, took care of his nurturing and upbringing; was endowed with love to care for him and to look after his needs. In all of this, it is the mother who is instilled with the affection and mercy to which her children seek comfort.

Just as this meaning is clear in the original linguistic meaning of the word and words derived from its linguistic root, our literature clarifies and evidences this further with the compound-word silat al-rahim [lit. womb-ties] in that this physiological attribute found in mothers has been made a symbol for maintaining family relationships which form the foundational elements for building human society. The most rightful and most deserving for this ascription is none other than the mother, who is the reason life continues and families are formed and is the outward manifestation of mercy.

This matter reaches its fullness and perfection with that magnificent religious sense portrayed by the chosen, beloved Prophet in his saying, “Family ties cling to the Throne, saying ‘Allah unites whoever united me, and severs whoever severed me.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

There is a hadith qudsi wherein Allah Mighty and Majestic says, “I am Allah and I am the Compassionate. I created family ties and I derived My name from the womb. I unite whoever unites them, and I will sever whoever severed them.”

The Prophet said, “In Abdullah bin Jud’an’s house, I witnessed a treaty [so great] not even the most prized camel would be dearer to me, and if I had been called to participate in it in Islam I would had answered.” (Al-Bayhaqi)

So according to this, celebrating Mothers’ Day is religiously permissible; there is nothing that prevents it and there is no harm in it. Rejected innovations are innovations which are in contradiction to the Shari’a. Things whose basis the Shari’a sanctions cannot be rejected and there is no sin upon the person who does them.

And Allah Majestic and Most High knows best.

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7 Things your Muslim wife won’t tell you

Hands of a Muslim couple at their wedding

Reprinted from MuslimVillage.com, author unknown

Most men have a hard time understanding women. Even a woman they’ve been married to for years. One minute she’s perfectly fine, the next, she’s crying like a baby. She complains about something but when we offer advice on how to fix it, she still isn’t satisfied. After several years of marriage (and counseling) I’ve learned to not worry so much about what my wife says. Instead, I should worry about what she doesn’t say.

1. Above all, She Wants Your love

When a wife shows her husband less respect, he in turn shows her less love.

And when a husband shows his wife less love, she in turn shows him less respect.

And the vicious cycle repeats itself.

Stop this prophecy before it becomes self-fulfilling. Show love to your wife.

That’s what she wants. Love her despite her flaws and quirks.

And Inshallah, she’ll respect you despite your flaws and quirks.

2. She’s Bored

It’s the same thing every day.

Week in and week out.

Not only is she bored but she’s also tired.

She has to care for the kids and run the household and then pamper you.

Just thinking about doing that every day makes me want to crawl under my covers and hide. I can imagine how the average Muslim housewife must feel.

And let’s not forget about working woman. Many Muslim women have to work a full time job as well as hold a house down.

So brothers, I implore you, make your wife feel special. Give her a break.

Take her out sometimes. Surprise her with a surprise meal. Bring her favorite desert home.

Just do something every now and then to break the monotony.

3. She Wants to be Complimented

Young Muslim couple and daughterAppreciation. Everybody wants it. No one wants to feel as if the hard work they do goes unnoticed or even worse, it taken for granted.

Your wife does not have to clean your dirty clothes. And she does not have to cook your meals. But she does. And she does that on top of all the other things in her life:

  • Caring for the kids.
  • Working or going to school.
  • Striving to be a better Muslimah.

Show your Muslim wife that you appreciate and are thankful for the things she does to maintain you and your family. A simple “thank you” is a good start.

4. She’s Insanely Jealous

There’s a reason most women don’t care for polygamy. Be very careful how you talk about other women around your wife. Don’t ever compare your wife to another woman.

  • Don’t compare her to some female movie star.
  • Don’t compare her to your mother.
  • Never, ever compare her to your ex-wife (or other wife!)

She’s wants to know and believe that she is the center of your universe. So make her feel that way.

Even the Prophet’s (pbuh) wives got jealous. Aisha (RA) even got jealous of Khadijah (RA) who was dead.

Expect, and respect, the same type of jealousy from your wife.

5. She Wants You to Help Her become A Better Muslimah

I can’t stress enough the importance of men taking the role of leader within their families.

And that’s the problem with a lot of Muslim men these days.

Not only are they not being good leaders, they’re being led by their wives (or mothers, or other women in their lives).

Your wife desires and wants you to be her leader. And what better way to lead her than to be show her how to be a better Muslimah?

But you can’t show her how to become better if you’re not that great either. Therefore, you have to upgrade your Iman. You have to improve yourself and then pass it on to her in a gentle, respectful way.

6. She Doesn’t Like to Nag, But Sometimes You Make It Hard

It’s a common myth that women like to nag their husbands. That’s not entirely true.

Yes, there are some people (men and women) whom you can never please. No matter what you do, they’ll always find fault in something. Let’s be reminded of the following hadith:

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: The Prophet said: “I was shown the Hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful.” It was asked, “Do they disbelieve in Allah?” (or are they ungrateful to Allah?) He replied, “They are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good (charitable deeds) done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, ‘I have never received any good from you.” – Sahih Bukhari.

So, yes sisters should be careful about denegrating the things your husband does for you.

But very often, you brother, make it hard for her to hold your tongue.

Perhaps you’re always finding fault with her and she looks for things in your character to get even.

Perhaps you’re not working (or not working hard enough) and she has to work to take up some slack.

Perhaps you’re just not that great of a guy.

Once again, upgrade yourself and give her less reasons to complain and nag.

7. More Than Anything, She Wants a Stable, Happy Relationship With You

Happy couple silhouetted against the sunsetWomen don’t get married just because they think it’s gonna be fun.

They get married because they want a happy family life and they believe you’re gonna give it to them.

Outside of her religious duties, that’s the most important thing in a Muslim woman’s life. Raising a happy, stable, Muslim family.

The funny thing is, it’s very easy for you to give that to her.

  • Stop acting like a jerk. Be a good husband to her. Be kind. Show her you love her.
  • Don’t threaten her with divorce or taking a second wife. Yes, you have the right to do both. But using them as threats is inappropriate and detrimental to your marriage.
  • Trust in Allah, watch out for the tricks of Shaytan, and be patient with her. There’s nothing Shaytan would love more than to destroy your marriage.

See? That isn’t all that hard, now is it?

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